Maygen Hetherington, left, and John Kartak

Maygen Hetherington, left, and John Kartak

Ex-Snohomish mayor faces political newcomer in City Council bid

John Kartak touts his fiscal responsibility. Maygen Hetherington wants to focus on small business and growth.

SNOHOMISH — A former mayor wants back in local government after a controversial tenure.

John Kartak ran the city of Snohomish from 2017 to 2021. The current mayor, Linda Redmon, ousted him in his bid for re-election. Now he is vying for Position 1 on the City Council.

His opponent, political newcomer Maygen Hetherington, has spent her career in small business and nonprofits.

Donna Ray, the current seat holder, is not running for re-election. Incumbents Felix Neals and Judith Kuleta are both running unopposed to retain their seats on the City Council.

Neither Hetherington nor Kartak have declared campaign contributions or expenditures. The four-year post pays an annual salary of $6,156.

Maygen Hetherington

Hetherington, 41, wants to prioritize growth management and aid small businesses if elected.

Hetherington, the executive director of the Historic Downtown Snohomish Association, sees small businesses as a big part of the city. She wants to support them as much as possible using her previous experience in business consulting.

She thinks the biggest issue in the city is managing growth.

In 2010, the city’s population was just over 9,000 people. By2022, it had grown to more than 10,150. Residents and city leaders have debated just how much more multi-family housing to allow going forward, and how affordable housing should be incentivized, in a city where “small town charm” is a catchphrase that seems to linger in the air.

With more people moving to the Puget Sound region, Hetherington wants to find ways to sustain people who already live in Snohomish, while making space for new arrivals.

“We have to implement the Growth Management Act strategically and with a lot of thought,” she said.

Density — going up instead of out — seems to her the best option for creating more residential and commercial space. However, she said, the city should be mindful to preserve historical buildings in the city and maintain Snohomish’s charm when creating more density.

She thinks her position as a mom with kids in the Snohomish School District would bring an important perspective that the council is currently lacking.

John Kartak

Kartak, 58, declined an interview with The Daily Herald.

His past executive term marked a change in responsibilities for the mayor’s office. The newly implemented “strong mayor” system began in 2017 with Kartak’s term, a change voters approved by 11 votes. It gave the office more duties, such as hiring and firing staff, overseeing city finances and developing policies. The mayor replaced the position of city manager.

His statement in the local voters’ pamphlet cites several priorities: “Water, Utilities, Police, Streets, Parks, Planning Department Services.”

He has touted his previous tenure as mayor and his fiscal responsibility.

“Respecting your tax dollars, I strengthened our fiscal health, knowing that we cannot prepare for financial hard times during financial hard times,” the statement reads.

However, Kartak’s term was also mired in controversy.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020, protests broke out in Snohomish. On one day, crowds of vigilantes gathered downtown wielding guns, with a small contingent waving Confederate flags and flashing racist symbols. Their stated goal was to “protect” local businesses from anti-fascist looters who never arrived.

In the weeks and months that followed, residents made widespread calls for Kartak’s resignation.

Hetherington said that day was the only time she had ever felt unsafe in her home.

While he was mayor, Kartak ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2020 for state representative against now-state Sen. John Lovick.

In his unsuccessful run for re-election as mayor in 2021, he held rallies using the slogan: “Don’t Seattle our Snohomish.”

In his candidate statement, Kartak said his record as mayor speaks for itself.

As mayor, he wrote, he helped increase the city’s year-end general fund balance from $2.5 million to about $7 million.

“I will be your voice to shift our City’s focus away from social politics and wasteful spending back to the basics,” the statement reads.

His candidate statement expresses disappointment in Redmon’s city spending habits since he left office.

Ballots are due Nov. 7.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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